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House Republicans Propose Ignoring Debt Ceiling For Three Months

The short term debt ceiling increase that House Republicans will vote on this week is a bit unusual:

Forget about raising the federal debt limit. House Republicans are proposing to ignore it altogether — at least until May 18.

The House plans to vote Wednesday on a measure that would leave the $16.4 trillion debt limit intact but declare that it “shall not apply” from the date the measure passes until mid-May.

This approach — novel in modern times — would let Republicans avoid a potentially disastrous fight over the debt limit without actually voting to let the Treasury borrow more money.

The House Ways and Means Committee unveiled the measure Monday; it is scheduled for a hearing in the Rules Committee on Tuesday and to hit the House floor on Wednesday. In addition to postponing a partisan fight over the debt limit, the measure seeks to force Senate Democrats to negotiate over a formal budget resolution by mandating that lawmakers’ paychecks be held in escrow starting April 15 unless Congress adopts a comprehensive framework for spending and tax policy.

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday called the House Republicans’ plan “a very significant development in reducing the conflict over this and reducing the fear over a process that had always had the potential spinning out of control.”

Carney said the administration takes heart “from the numerous statements of Republicans leading up to this decision, the statements from Republicans who made clear it was not the right thing to do to play chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States. It’s not the right thing to do to extract demands from the president and Democratic Party.”

Historically, all debt ceiling increases, even short term ones such as those we saw not infrequently in the 1980s, were for a specific monetary amount that was intended to last for a short period of time. Instead of doing that, though, the House plan would essentially make the debt ceiling meaningless for more than three months. Presumably, they are doing it this way so that legislators who support it could still say, albeit with a limited amount of credibility, that they didn’t vote to raise the debt ceiling.  It’s unclear how Democrats in the Senate will respond to this, presuming it passes, but it is worth noting that, in some sense, the GOP is essentially conceding the argument of those who have advocated getting rid of the Debt Ceiling altogether.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. legion says:

    At what point can we declare the Republican Party an active threat to US national security?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    Will a congressperson try to amend it so it just can be ignored ad infinitum?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. john personna says:

    Sounds great, a first step in ignoring it entirely.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. stonetools says:

    Call this the Long Retreat-into sanity.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Has there ever been a more definitive example of kicking the can down the road?
    Definitely a slippery slope…a slope that ideally get steeper….really, really, steep even.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. This is pretty bold in it’s idiocy. Would this mean that the Treasury can “ignore” the debt ceiling as a constraint and issue debt to whatever amount it wants? I’d just pass it, then borrow enough to last 4 years and rob them of any possible leverage over the Treasury. So then they “revisit” it in 3 months to find out they’ve totally screwed themselves. Would the optics of that even backfire on the Administration at this point?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Desperate and unusual times often call for desperate and unusual measures. Our deficit is 10% of GDP. We haven’t seen that sort of calamity nearly in seven decades. Not during Vietnam. Not during the Carter malaise. Not after 9/11. Not even close. Not even within the ballpark. So it’s only natural, facing this ongoing disaster, that someone needs to think outside of the box.

    Speaking of thinking, here’s the elephant in the room: Virtually every word uttered and written by the chattering classes on this subject is and has been from an inverse, Bizarro Land perspective. Cart before horse; car without wheels. Because the starting point to the current mess is that the Democrats in the Senate have refused for four years to pass a budget. That’s the item over which the chattering classes somehow continue to be insouciant.

    There is no budget. If there was a budget we could have a meaningful, adult conversation about the debt ceiling and the deficit. But again there is no budget. Because it’s not and has not been in the Democrats’ interest to have had a budget. So here we are.

    What the GOP is trying to do is to set a framework from which we as a country can obtain, you know, a national budget. Then they can deal with the debt ceiling. Once you set aside the Republican Derangement Syndrome for a minute this isn’t abstract rocket science. Delay the impact of the debt ceiling. Get a budget. Then discuss the budget framework within the context of the debt celing. 1+1+1 = 3, not 7.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 10

  8. David M says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Budget. LOL.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I can’t think of anything more useless than today’s GOP.

    On the other hand, Science has finally definitively answered the age old question of “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

    At least somebody is doing something to make a difference in the world.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  10. NBH says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Desperate and unusual times often call for desperate and unusual measures. Our deficit is 10% of GDP. We haven’t seen that sort of calamity nearly in seven decades. Not during Vietnam. Not during the Carter malaise. Not after 9/11. Not even close. Not even within the ballpark. So it’s only natural, facing this ongoing disaster, that someone needs to think outside of the box.

    Your entire premise is bullshit. The deficit is not 10%. Fiscal 2012 it’s 7%, with it projected to continue falling to 3% in fiscal 2015. And of course we haven’t seen this huge a deficit in decades since we just went through the biggest economic collapse since the Great Depression.

    There’s a simple first step to keep the deficit going down and prevent a repeat: don’t let the banks and the current crop of GOP idiots run the economy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  11. Not Likely says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    There is no budget. If there was a budget we could have a meaningful, adult conversation about the debt ceiling and the deficit.

    There may be no formal budget, but there have been continuing resolutions. Why is Congress unable to have a “meaningful conversation” about spending without a non-binding resolution on their podiums? They’re the ones proposing and authorizing the spending. It seems to me that if there is no conversation taking place it’s got nothing to do with whether a budget has passed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Not Likely:

    It seems to me that if there is no conversation taking place it’s got nothing to do with whether a budget has passed.

    Don’t bother. Tsar fully believes in meaningless hollow gestures that do absolutely nothing to address the very real problems that this country faces. I mean, he voted for Romney.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. spike59 says:

    oooooohhhhhhh…how scandalous…yet Senate Democrats ignore the budget altogether for 4 YEARS and it’s no big deal…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  14. spike59 says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: “I can’t think of anything more useless than Obama.”

    -there. fixed it for ya

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  15. spike59 says:

    @C. Clavin: Has there ever been a more definitive example of kicking the can down the road?

    the Senate’s ‘action’ on budgets over the past 4 years comes to mind…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 8

  16. David M says:

    @spike59:

    Exactly how would have passing non-binding budget resolutions have changed things?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  17. wr says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “That’s the item over which the chattering classes somehow continue to be insouciant. ”

    Lighthearted? Jaunty? Breezy?

    Are you even aware that these collections of letters we call “words” actually have specific meanings?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  18. mantis says:

    @David M:

    Exactly how would have passing non-binding budget resolutions have changed things?

    Don’t you know those things are magical?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  19. C. Clavin says:

    “…Because the starting point to the current mess is that the Democrats in the Senate have refused for four years to pass a budget…”

    OH NO!!! how have we been managing for four years…WITHOUT A NON-BINDING BUDGET???
    My, my, you never fail to show how dumb you are.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  20. An Interested Party says:

    “I can’t think of anything more useless than Obama.”

    -there. fixed it for ya

    It must really burn you that he won re-election…you poor thing…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0